Page images
PDF
EPUB

CAMP OF ERA'TAFANI.

519 is the head of one of the two divisions of the Erátafáni. The village consisted of 150 to 200 huts of matting, with a larger and a smaller leathern tent in the centre; but as it did not offer any cool shade, being perched on the bare hot gravel overlying the rock, we thought it very uninviting, and preferred descending the steep eastern slope, upon the narrow.slip of the low shore which stretched along the river, and which, being richly clothed with hájilíj, baúre, and other trees, offered a very pleasant resting place. We were, however, not allowed to enjoy much repose, but were soon visited by the whole male population of the village, Tawárek and Songhay, full-grown men and children, who gathered round us with great curiosity, but without entering into close conversation, as they did not know what to make of me, and scrutinized suspiciously what my real character might be, my companions passing me for a sheríf.

Later in the afternoon, the chief himself, who had not been present on our arrival, paid us a visit, and behaved in a very becoming manner, so that I made him a present of half a lithám, while I distributed a quantity of needles among his people. The place was tolerably well supplied with provisions, and I bought a good supply of butter and rice; but milk was scarce, although I succeeded in bartering a small quantity for some dates, of which these people were extremely fond. A little below our encampment, on the low shore, there was a farm, and on the island nearest the shore two small hamlets; for the branch of the river, which in general appears to be of considerable depth, was studded with green islands, which stretched out lengthwise in two parallel rows, being of the same height as the bank on which we were encamped, and which at present formed a steep descent to the shores of the river of about ten feet, rendering the watering of the horses very difficult. It was only with the utmost exertion that we rescued one of them which fell into the stream.

The whole district is said to be greatly infested by lions, and we saw the remains of four horses which a single individual of that species had torn to pieces the preceding day; but, notwithstanding the strength and ferocity of this animal, I was assured by all the inhabitants that the lion of this region, like that of A'ír, has no mane, and that its outward appearance was altogether very unlike that beautiful skin upon which I used to lie down, being the exuvice of an animal from Lógone.

Friday, July 21st. On our way hither the preceding day we had

been overtaken, near the village of Gandútan, by a band of some three or four Songhay people, who had rather a warlike and enterprising appearance, and were very well mounted. Having kept close to us for some time, and spoken a great deal about my arms, they had disappeared, but at a very early hour this morning, while it was yet dark, and we were getting our luggage ready for the day's march, they again appeared, and inspired my companions with some little fear as to their ulterior intentions. They therefore induced the chief of the Erátafáni to accompany us for a while, with some of his people on horseback, as they were well aware that the Songhay, who at present have almost entirely lost their independence, can not undertake any enterprise without the connivance of the Tawárek; but as for myself, I was not quite sure who were most to be feared, our protectors, or those vagabonds of whom my companions were so much afraid; for, although the chief himself seemed to be a respectable man, these people, who are of a mixed race of Tawárek and Songhay, do not appear to be very trustworthy, and I should advise any traveler in this region to be more on his guard against them than against the true Tawárek. But, under the present circumstances, when they accompanied us on the road, I thought it better to tell them plainly who I was, although my companions had endeavored to keep them in the dark respecting my real character. They had taken me for a Ghadámsi merchant, who wanted to pass through their territory without making them a suitable present. After I had made this confession they became much more cheerful and openhearted, and we parted the best of friends. The cunning Wádáwi also contributed toward establishing with them a more intimate relation by bartering his little pony for one of their mares. Nothing renders people in these countries so communicative, and, at the same time, allays their suspicions so much, as a little trading.

Having separated from our friends, and made our way with some difficulty through a tract of country partly inundated, we at length fell in with a well-trodden path, where on our right a low hilly chain approached. Here a little dúm bush began to appear, and farther on monkey-bread-trees adorned the landscape; but the river, after having approached for a short time with its wide valley, retired to such a distance that, not having provided a supply of water, we began to suffer from thirst. I therefore rode in advance, and chose a place for a short halt during the midday heat, where a sort of fäddama, which during the highest state of

ROCKY NATURE OF RIVER BED.

521

[ocr errors]

the inundation forms a considerable open sheet of water round an island thickly clad with dúm palms, indents the rising bank of the river, offering, even at the present time, a handsome tank of clear water. The surrounding slope was adorned with a fine grove of dúm palms, and, protected by the shade of some rich hájilíj, produced a great profusion of succulent herbage.

Having rested in this pleasant spot for a couple of hours, we pursued our march along this green hollow, at present half dried up, and feeding also a good many tamarind-trees, and after a march of about half a mile reached the spot where this shallow branch joins a considerable open arm of the river, which here is tolerably free from rocks. A little below, it is compressed between rocky masses projecting from either bank, intersecting the whole branch, so that only a narrow passage is left, inclosed as it were by a pair of iron gates formed by nature. Yet the navigation was not obstructed even at the present season, as a boat about thirty-five feet long, and rowed by six men, which went quickly past us, evidently proved. The path was lined with mushrooms, called by my companions tobl e ndéri.

This branch of the river presented a very different aspect when, after having ascended a rising ground, we had cut off a bend or elbow of the river, for here it formed a kind of rapid, over which the water foamed along, and from the circumstance of the boat having followed another branch, this locality did not seem to be passable at present. The low shores, which are annually inundated, and even now left swampy ground between us and the river, were cultivated with rice; the higher ground, rising above the reach of the inundation, bordered by a belt of damankádda and thorny bushes, was reserved for millet; and beyond, the whole valley, which is here very broad, is bordered by a mountainous chain. The rocky nature of the river was farther demonstrated by a remarkable group of rocks rising from an island a little farther on, and affording a very conspicuous landmark; but, in general, this part of its course seems to be free from cliffs.

We had long strained our eyes in vain in order to obtain a sight of the large town of Sínder, which we knew to be situated on an island, till at length, from a hilly chain which here borders the river, we obtained a fair sight of the whole breadth of the valley, and were able to distinguish an extensive range of huts spreading over one or two islands in the river. Here, therefore, we encamped at the side of a few huts, although it would have been more

prudent, as we afterward found, to have chosen our encampment a little lower down the river, where a channel leads straight to the island of Sínder, with which we wanted to open communication; while, from the spot where we actually encamped, another considerable island town, called Garú, lies in front of it.

The whole valley, which is probably not less than from six to eight miles broad, and is studded with extensive islands, is very fertile, and tolerably well inhabited. The two towns together, Garú and Sínder, according to the little I saw of them, did not seem to contain less than from 16,000 to 18,000 inhabitants, and are of the utmost importance to Europeans in any attempt to navigate the upper part of the river, as they must here prepare to encounter great difficulties with the natives, and at the same time ought here to provide themselves with corn sufficient to carry them almost to Timbúktu; for Sínder, which in some respects still acknowledges the authority of the Governor of Say, is also the market for all the corn used in this district. A large quantity of millet can at any time be readily obtained here, and during my journey was even exported in large quantities to supply the wants of the whole of the provinces of Zabérma and Déndina. Notwithstanding this great demand, the price was very low, and I bartered half a suníye of dukhn, equal to about two hundred pounds' weight, for a piece of black cloth, feruwál, or zenne, which I had purchased in Gando for 1050 shells, a very low price indeed, not only when we take into account the state of things in Europe, but even when we consider the condition of the other countries of Negroland. I was also fortunate enough to barter the eighth part of a lump of rock-salt from Taödénni for eight dr'a of shash or muslin; but as for rice, it is difficult to be got here, at least in a prepared state, although rice in the husk, or kókesh, is in abundance.

A great many people visited me, and altogether behaved very friendly. In this little suburb where we had encamped, there was staying a very clever fäki, belonging originally to the Gá-béro, and called Mohammed Saleh. To my great astonishment, I became aware that this man was acquainted with my whole story; and, upon inquiring how he had obtained his information, I learned that a pilgrim, named Mohammed Fádhl, a native of the distant country of Fúta, who, being engaged in a pilgrimage, had undertaken the journey from Timbúktu along the river in a boat, had acquainted the people with all my proceedings in that place.

[blocks in formation]

This fáki also informed us of the present state of Háusa. He told us that Dáúd, the rebellious prince of Zerma, or Zabérma, after his whole army had been cut to pieces by A'bú el Hassan, had made his escape to Yélu, the capital of Déndina, where the rebels were still keeping their ground. Meanwhile 'Aliyu, the Emír el Múmenín, had arrived before Argúngo, but, in consequence of his own unwarlike character, and a dispute with Khalílu, to whom that part of Kebbi belongs, he retraced his steps, without achieving any thing worthy of notice. But I learned that, owing to the revolt continuing, the Dendi were still in open rebellion, and that, in consequence, the road from Támkala to Fógha was as unsafe as ever, although part of the Máuri had again returned to their allegiance.

I should have liked very much to visit the town of Sínder, but, not feeling well, and for other reasons, I thought it more prudent to remain where I was; for, besides the fact that the governor himself is only in a certain degree dependent on the ruler of Say, there were here a good many Tawárek roving about, which rendered it not advisable for me to separate from my luggage; I therefore gave a small present to my companions, which they were to offer to the governor in my name. In consequence of this they were well received, and the governor himself came to meet them half way between the towns of Sínder and Garú, and behaved very friendly to them.

Sunday, July 23d. After a rainy night, we left this rich and populous district in order to pursue our journey to Say. Keeping close along the bank of the river, our attention was soon attracted by some young palm bushes covered with fruit, which caused a long dispute between my people and the followers of the sheikh, part of them asserting that it was the oil palm, while others affirmed it to be the date palm. This latter opinion appeared the correct one, considering that the oil palm does not grow at any distance from salt water; for on our whole journey through the interior we had only met with it in the valley of Fógha, which contains a great quantity of salt. This opinion was confirmed by farther observation, when we discovered the male and female seeds, which wanted nothing but the civilizing influence of man in order to produce good fruit. Without an artificial alliance of the male and female, the fruit remains in a wild and embryo-like state. Thus keeping along the shore, we passed several islands in the river, first Juntu, and at a short distance from it Bisse

« PreviousContinue »